The following entry is cross posted from Jack Neary’s own Blog, Shards.
So much has been written over the past few days about my friend–our friend, everybody’s friend–former State Rep Ed LeLacheur and his boundless enthusiasm for life and service, that nothing I can contribute here can really add much to his legacy. I do have two stories, though, from my experience with Ed, to pass along.
If you played baseball at any time in your life, you remember that one play that is the “best” you ever made. Some of you are lucky, in that the “best” play happened in a real game, a sanctioned game, maybe even a playoff game. Not me. The “best” play I ever made happened in batting practice.
We were at Manning Field. Probably a Saturday. The Sacred Heart Parish–”The Haht”–was putting together a softball team to play in the church league. Maybe the late 70′s, early eighties, something like that. A bunch of guys were fiddling around before the first practice started, and the fiddling evolved into something of an organized batting practice session. You know–guy grabs a bat, takes a few swings, another guy grabs a bat. Not all that formal, but…organized nonetheless. For some reason, I planted myself at third base to shag whatever came off the various bats as I awaited my own turn. All I remember about the rest of that day is Eddie, taking his swings, lifting a pop foul behind the bag at third, which then drifted toward the corner in left. I sized it up, and started back to shag the fly. Shagging flies in batting practice usually means picking the ball up off the ground after the fly lands. But I saw that I could get to this pop up. It would not be easy, but…I don’t know…for some reason I felt I needed to make the play. So I turned on the jets–don’t laugh, I had jets then and when push comes to shove I have jets now–and I kept the soaring sphere (yeah, I’ve read purple baseball prose before, too) in sight as I peeked when I could at the chain link fence that separated the field from the parking lot down the left field line. I wasn’t going to make it. The ball was going to hit the ground and my effort was going to be all for naught. (I try to do as little as possible for naught in my life.) My back was completely turned from the field. LeLacheur was probably leaning into the next batting practice pitch. Nobody was watching me. Still–I had to catch this ball. And just before it was to scrape the fence, I lunged forward and Willie Mays-ed the thing into my glove. Without question, the best baseball play I ever made. Nobody cared then. Nobody cares now. I know this. But Eddie’s passing allows me to tell the story, because he was the guy who hit the ball.
My second and favorite recollection of Ed has to do with his infectious sense of humor.
It’s another “Haht” story. This time, again in the 70′s, it’s the Sacred Heart Bowling League which met weekly at the Brentwood Lanes. A machine of a league coordinated by the late, great Frank Flynn, and we all had a terrific time. From this point on in the story, except for LeLacheur, I’m not going to name names. I think everybody’s dead, but I’m still clamming up on the names. People have relatives.
Anyway, it’s early in the evening and LeLacheur is there, yucking it up with the rest of the guys. At one point, one of the older guys in the league–big,blustery, pipe-smokin’ Irishman–points to another guy about to roll. The other guy is also older, but smaller, quieter, and probably not all that Irish. Kinda reminded me of Donald Meek in the movies or John Fieldler on TV. Anyway, the blustery Irishman takes a look at Donald Meek and says to LeLacheur, “That’s the pastor, isn’t it?” Of course, it was not the pastor. Not even close. But Eddie saw an opportunity and took it. “Sure,” says Eddie. “That’s the pastor. Absolutely.”
And that was it. For a while. The evening wore on and, for all intents and purposes, Donald Meek guy was the pastor to the Blustery Irishman guy. The rest of the bowlers in LeLacheur’s group got into it, too, deferring all evening to Donald Meek guy–”Nice one, Father!” “Way to go, Father!” “Which Mass are you saying on Sunday, Father?” LeLacheur, the instigator, just let it keep going.
Until the end of the evening approached. At that point, Eddie pulled Donald Meek guy aside just before he was about to try for a spare and whispered something into his ear. Donald Meek guy nodded, and made his way to the lane. He took his duckpin ball, and lined up his shot. Blustery Irish guy watched. Donald Meek guy made his approach, rolled the ball, and missed the spare.
(In the interest of keeping the blog relatively clean, I’m misspelling the featured word in this upcoming rant.)
“What the eff was that!” Donald Meek guy roared! “Did you guys see that effin’ ball! The effin’ lane is effin’ warped! I’m not bowlin’ at this effin’ place ever again!”
Blustery Irish guy blanched. I think he may have even dropped his pipe into his lap. Every bowler in the place, by that time, was in on the joke. Everybody roared.
Nobody, though, more than LeLacheur. I had never seen anybody more ecstatic in my life. His laughter thrust him away from the lanes, over by the bench near the front door, where he collapsed in an avalanche of guffaws.
To me, it wasn’t just the idea of the gag that was brilliant. It was the execution. The timing. The patience it took to get from the set up to the delivery.
I will remember Ed LeLacheur for many things–including the fact that the last time I saw him, he came to see my play THE PORCH in Stoneham, and I believe he had a great time.
But this memory–which I call “That’s the pastor, isn’t it?”–is my favorite.